Italy seeks to withdraw from Iraq

On the heels of the shooting of an Italian journalist, and already facing deep domestic opposition to the war in Iraq, Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, “one of President Bush’s few close allies,” said he will seek to begin withdrawing Italy’s forces.

    “I’ve spoken about it with Tony Blair, and it’s the public opinion of our countries that expects this decision,” Mr. Berlusconi said in the talk show “Porta a Porta,” referring to the British prime minister, who faces similar public disenchantment for his support of the war. “We have to build an exit strategy.”

Militarily, the withdrawal won’t amount to much, but the fig leaf of an international coalition supporting Bush’s war on Iraq is crumbling away. Italy has 3,000 troops in Iraq. “Britain, with 8,000 troops, the second largest contingent in Iraq after the United States’ 150,000, has not announced any withdrawal date. But Poland, another important European ally, has announced it will withdraw several hundred of its 1,700 troops in July with the intent of leaving entirely around the start of the new year. The Netherlands and Ukraine have both begun withdrawing their combined 2,900 troops or plan to do so.”

Test battle over judicial nominations on Thursday

The Christian Science Monitor reports that “Thursday’s vote on the first of President Bush’s blocked judicial nominees sets up a test of a ‘nuclear option’ whose fallout could effectively bring the US Senate to a stop for the balance of the 109th Congress – and affect the balance on US courts for decades.”

The Judiciary Committee will likely send “the nomination of William Myers to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals” to the full Senate on a party-line vote. The Democrats will likely filibuster and Republicans will likely use this occasion to seek to introduce a rules change — the so-called “nuclear option” — to limit the ability of the minority party to filibuster. “‘Both parties understand that this is a dress rehearsal for the Supreme Court,’ says Sheldon Goldman, a political scientist and expert on judicial nominations at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. ‘It’s been nicknamed the nuclear option because the fallout would be radioactive as far as our politics goes.'” The Democratic Party has issued an action alert asking people to sign a petition to — in their words, protect free speech. This isn’t really about free speech. It is about protecting minority rights against a tyranny of the majority. It is about the purpose of the Senate itself — as a counterweight to the more popularly representative House of Representatives. And, it is about stacking the courts in favor of the right wing — an effect which could last decades.

Losing focus in Minnesota

Apparently Minnesota legislators are considering a ban on gay marriage. Pioneer Press columnist Laura Billings asks, “Does amending the constitution to ban gay marriage really trump a budget deficit, a gathering storm in public education, cuts in health care to poor people and soaring costs for everyone else — not to mention the nuts and bolts of state government, like repairing highways, arguing about sports stadiums and building nice zoos?”

Strengthening Freedom of Information

The ACLU has issued an action alert in support of a Senate bill to strengthen the Freedom of Information Act. I’ve previously commented on this issue, and lots of people have commented that the Bush Administration is one of the most secretive in history. The Bush Administration, of course, has reasons to be secretive, and that is something we should all be concerned about.

Former WorldCom Chief Ebbers guilty on all charges

This story should be popping up all over. The report focuses not on whether Ebbers was guilty but on the decision to send him to the witness stand:

    “The conviction today signals a complete rejection of his testimony by the jury, and it will leave many questioning the wisdom of sending Ebbers to the stand in the first place,” said Robert Mintz, a former federal prosecutor who is now with the Newark, New Jersey, law firm of McCarter & English. “The high- risk gamble of taking the stand simply blew up on him.”

According to a Forbes newsletter, “[t]he crimes carry a potential 85 years in prison.”

Just remember, high technology is the economy of the future.

I remember Clinton saying high technology was where the jobs of the future were. Even after the dot-com bust in 2001, Kerry, in his presidential campaign of 2004, pointed to high tech as the economy of the future. Why am I so cynical?

“Silicon Valley remains the biggest drag on California’s wobbly economic recovery, a group of Southern California economists concluded in a report released today.” That’s the lead in this article on Now that I’ve gone for four years without gainful employment, can someone please explain to me again how free trade is going to benefit our economy?

A Successor to Copyright?

The Washington Post has published a story on the Creative Commons License. Apparently some even in the recording industry are endorsing the idea, even as they aggressively pursue those they call “pirates.”

I’ve long felt that the notion of intellectual property was obsolete; what I haven’t figured out is how anybody makes any money off the obvious successor: file sharing–legal, as with the Creative Commons license, or otherwise. Creative Commons seems to offer a bit more flexibility than the “all or nothing” approach of copyright.

The idea this article attributes to “Lawrence Lessig, a Stanford University law professor,” is that “art has always been about stealing, recycling and mixing: Vincent Van Gogh and Paul Gauguin were said to borrow from each other’s brushwork. The 1990s hit ‘Clueless’ with Alicia Silverstone was a modern-day adaptation of Jane Austen’s ‘Emma.'” From this, one can infer that a strict enforcement of copyright contributes to artistic stagnation.

    “What we’re doing is not only good for society but it’s good for us and our business because we get our music out,” said Brian Hardgroove, 40, the co-founder of Fine Arts Militia and the band’s bass player.

I may not understand how anybody makes any money off of this, but Cory Doctorow says in the article, “At every turn in history we see this new model of distribution that people say is going to destroy art itself.” It hasn’t happened yet, Doctorow points out.

Text of Ed Dennis letter to Lupin Camera Club

It has come to my attention that not all members of the Lupin Camera Club received a copy of the e-mail Ed Dennis sent regarding its closure. Here it is:

March 13, 2005

An Open Letter to Lupin Camera Club Members.

After careful deliberation and consultation with Lupin members, it is with heavy heart that, as CEO of Lupin Naturist Club, Ltd., I find it necessary to disband the Lupin Camera Club. A more responsive organization is being formed to benefit the photo related needs of the membership and well being of our naturist club. All current members in recent good standing of the now defunct Lupin Camera Club are invited to join the new organization and receive value beyond that of any dues paid the defunct club for 2005. All assets of the defunct camera club are now held in trust by Lupin Naturist Club, Ltd. for the use and benefit of the new organization.

Sadly, the old camera club has been the target of so many complaints by Lupin Members (including its own former members) and its primary mission failure in the view of Lupin Management allows no alternative but to start from scratch to build a member oriented photo group that produces more results with less petty politics.

Please note that this email came to you because your full name and email address was inadvertently supplied to me (and the Internet at large) with the email announcement of the meeting of the Lupin Camera Club of March 13, 2005 by its Secretary/Treasurer. I have chosen to announce the termination of the Lupin Camera Club at its last meeting so that any questions by its members could be addressed in person. Additional questions or comments may be addressed to me via email at: .

In response to those of you that have remained in the camera club or dropped out due to the dissatisfaction, rest assured that you will be able to participate in a new group better suited to the interest of the photographic arts, personal growth in photography and the advance of family oriented naturism.

Lupin is, and should be, an institution to further the healthy aspects of the naturist alternative lifestyle. A photography interest group within Lupin Naturist Club should reflect and build upon the mission of the Club. and be above the political intrigue, vitriol, and lack of performance that has recently characterized the Lupin Camera Club.

Lupin is in a mode where it must change or die. This is not my opinion, but rather the fact of club life that I encountered nearly two years ago. and stepped up with time, money and expertise to resolve. After years of deficits, it is not a popular stance for Kassandra and me to attempt to make this institution self-supporting.

My appreciation for the photographic arts began early. and in my high school years I sold my first photograph. and won my first awards for photography. I care. And, now, I am being put down (with other Lupin Camera Club members) for expecting too much of Lupin Camera Club members. resulting in the failure to have even one photo to advertise Lupin submitted in over two years that was not taken by me! I ask you, how much have you grown in the photographic arts as a direct result of attending camera club meetings?

It has also been said that the souvenir photos at Lupin events need not meet minimal quality standards reasonably expected by those expected to pay for the photos. Sadly, the poor quality standards have resulted in many complaints to Lupin Management. A recent focus of complaints has been the Nikon entry-level camera that was purchased but now appears wholly unsuited to the task. and which was bought prior to the approval of the camera club membership. and later ratified by the “camera club clique.” Any former camera club member that thinks that this Nikon is a “great deal” is welcome to have it, and the shaky tripod on which it stands, for 10% less than the Camera club paid for it. and I will personally make up the difference for the benefit of the new photo group.

The innuendo in recent email from the former Secretary/Treasurer suggests that the bank account provided by Lupin Naturist Club, Ltd. is somehow suspect by inferring that Susan or Kassandra have somehow conspired to withhold critical banking information from the Secretary/Treasurer. That is utter nonsense. and the disharmony of the inference serves neither truth nor the honor with which Lupin Naturist Club, Ltd. has nurtured and enhanced the financial aspects of the now defunct Lupin Camera Club.

Even though change may be clearly in order. change, by its very nature, is disruptive and upsetting. Change was vital to Lupin’s continuance. And, now, change is vital to bringing harmony, learning, and growth of the photographic arts at Lupin. To all of you who have contributed to the positive aspects of Lupin photography. your contribution is most appreciated and will continue to be so in a new photo club format.

Like the Legend of the Phoenix. an institution that consumes itself in rhetorical flames may now emerge from the ashes more radiant and fruitful than ever before.

People, old members and new, are flocking to a resurgent Lupin. The debt structure to pay for the Lupin that was is now the burden of the Lupin that is. This is a time for those of us who “Love Lupin” to pull together and meet realistic exigencies of the immediate future with joy and resolution. as Kassandra and I have done. Reasonable dissent is always welcome. but active intrigues to the detriment of building a Lupin that can stand the rigors of this era are not.

If you love Lupin and photography as much as I do, please be assured that better times are near at hand. and any subterfuge of biased announcements, officious posturing, pre-ordained elections, standing proxies, and non-photo related intrigue are at a merciful end.

Respectfully yours,

Ed Dennis, CEO/GM

Lupin Naturist Club, Ltd.